Last year, scheduling vacations was a nightmare. You may have had to force some of your team to take vacation in an effort to keep them on your payroll. While other managers couldn’t afford to let staff take vacation, due to the increase in demand for your services.
This year you can set yourself up for success by having a system in place that lets you scale up, scale down, and manage time off without the headaches.
Read on for six ways to regulate your team’s vacations requests to ensure your business is always covered and continues to run smoothly.
1. Create a leave policy
First things first: You need an official policy.
Whether you’re leading the charge as a large retail chain or you’re head of a small urgent care clinic, you need to take the guesswork out of leave management. Your policy should include your team’s responsibilities, obligations, and rights in terms of making vacation requests. The policy should include a step-by-step description of your vacation request and approval process. The structure of your leave policy will depend on your individual business, but the following are three common categories:
Employees have a specified amount of vacation days at the start of the work year and, if days aren’t taken, the time is lost. This type of leave policy is known as “use it or lose it.”
Employees have a fixed number of vacation days per annum and days that are unused rollover into the next year.
Employees have an unrestricted amount of vacation days.
Regardless of the type of leave policy you create, the following should be included in your vacation procedure:
Description of who is eligible for vacation leave.
The number of vacation days employees are eligible for.
The number of leave days (if any) that can be carried over.
After you create your leave policy, it needs to be communicated to your employees when they start work. To avoid confusion and doubt, ensure you have a way to identify when employees have read your leave policy. Use a streamlined communication app that has the functionality to upload documents, like your leave policy, and allows you to ask for confirmation that your employees have read and understood the document.
2. Have a formal time off system
Once you have your policy in place, you next need to make sure you have a viable system to enforce it. And spreadsheets and emails aren’t going to cut it.
As you do your beginning of the year office clean up, you accidentally throw away your stack of sticky notes with vacation requests from your whole staff. Now what? Who requested next Monday off — and who said they can’t work the upcoming sale?
Maybe you’d like to rotate how you schedule vacation requests. Or perhaps you prefer a “first come, first served” approach. Use a workforce management tool to streamline not just how you approve time-off requests — but how your team submits those requests. Here are a few tips on what your tool should collect when scheduling vacation requests.
When a vacation request is made.
The reason for requesting leave.
When the vacation request was approved.
Reasons for declining the vacation request.
The dates of the vacation.
How many vacation days are left.
With the numerous issues to focus on to keep on top of vacation requests, your work management tool should be capable of providing reports about your individual team member’s vacation history. It should also be able to customize reports showing your team's time off as a whole, to spot patterns and help regulate vacation requests.
3. Set deadlines for vacation requests
To avoid a flood of vacation requests coming in at the same time, give your team a cut-off date for requesting time off. This approach will also help you to plan for peak times in your business. Give yourself enough time to consider your teams’ vacation requests so you can resolve any conflicts. The deadline for holiday request submission should be included in your leave policy so that all employees know what’s expected of them.
As well as setting a cut-off date for vacation requests, you should also consider imposing a timeframe for when you’ll accept requests. This will prevent employees from booking vacation days too far in advance. Approving vacation requests for the following year will leave other team members at a disadvantage. Allowing your team to book vacations too far into the future will make it difficult to schedule new employees leave because your existing team would’ve already booked up most of the allocated vacation time.
4. Give your team autonomy
Some staff might want to work over the holidays, especially if there’s a financial benefit. Others, however, are ready for a few days off. You’re already busy enough, looking over your sales trends or trying to find ways to cut costs. Setting a schedule — and then resetting when someone calls in sick — is a hassle. Pass the work on to your employees, and give them a sense of autonomy at the same time.
You can help to empower employees by allowing them to trade shifts amongst themselves.
But trading shifts can be messy if you don’t use the right tools. You need to set parameters for shift trades to be effective for your business and your team. To avoid difficulties like insufficient cover, overstaffing or the wrong skills mix, your vacation management tool needs to identify the following:
Employees on the same pay scale.
Employees with the same skill sets.
When overtime will be triggered.
To ensure your trade shift procedure operates as it should, include an option in your vacation management tool that requires all shift-swapping arrangements to be approved by the owner or a manager. This safeguard will help you spot any unusual activity in the regulation of your team’s holiday request. For example, where one employee is covering a lot of their team members’ shifts. This could be an indication that the employee is having difficulty saying “no” when asked to work extra shifts and may need your help in dealing with the situation.
5. Offer incentives
Unfortunately, it might not be feasible to offer everyone the same days off. After all, someone needs to be there to help your customers. Offer incentives or bonuses to encourage your employees to work during the holidays and other peak times. These incentives could be:
Additional time off when business is slower.
Coupons or gift cards.
Before the busy season starts, remind your team that you want them to take a vacation before or after peak times. Let them know the importance of time off to recharge their batteries. This reminder will help you regulate your teams’ holiday requests as they’ll see that you care about their wellbeing.
6. Develop a contingency plan
Despite your best efforts to keep your business fully staffed during busy periods, you might need to approve more vacation requests than you’d like. It pays to be prepared with a backup plan to hire seasonal employees. Sometimes, to strike the balance between keeping your team happy and running a successful business, you’ll need to bring in extra help.
If you’ve worked with seasonal workers in the past, contact them to find out whether they’re available to provide cover for the team members that are on vacation. Seasonal employees should form part of your leave policy so that you’ll be aware of when to hire them and the duration of the work you can offer.
Part of regulating your team’s vacation requests is being prepared with contingencies for when things don’t go as planned. A complete leave policy and a comprehensive workforce management tool with vacation approval functionality will mean that it’s less likely you’ll need to hire seasonal staff. However, it makes sense to include seasonal employees in your leave policy to cater for unforeseen circumstances.
Manage vacation requests from anywhere
Sitting at your desk, sifting through tons of vacation requests, trying to work out what it’s going to cost your business. Sound familiar?
When you use a smart workforce management system, everything is kept in one place so you don’t have to go through all that paperwork. Plus, because it’s digital, you can approve leave from anywhere, anytime. Sign up for a free trial of Deputy to see how you can better regulate your team’s vacation requests — without the stress.